UK government faces increasing pressure to clamp down on Muslim Brotherhood
LONDON - The British government is facing increasing calls to clamp down on the Islamist Muslim Brotherhood organisation, which has been banned in several Arab countries.
The calls came after a statement from a retired senior British Army commander warned the British House of Commons that the Brotherhood represented a major threat to British society. Colonel Tim Collins, who served in Northern Ireland and Iraq, highlighted the threat represented by the Muslim Brotherhood and particularly criticised Qatari and Turkish funding of the group.
“There’s no doubt that there are people within its [the Muslim Brotherhood’s] ranks who are involved in violence, who plan violence, who coordinate violence but it is a nebulous thing. It is hard to pin down. It’s almost a franchise. It’s almost like Islamic State (ISIS) itself,” Collins said January 8 at a briefing at the House of Commons.
Collins described support and funding of the Muslim Brotherhood by British allies Turkey and Qatar as “not the action of friends.”
“Sowing discord and encouraging communities as well as individuals to stand apart from our society is the seed of subversion and ends in Manchester with the murder of children, it ends in Rotherham with the rape of children, it ends in London with the murder of strangers on London Bridge,” he said.
Collins cited payments of more than $150 million to various European institutions, part of a bid by the Brotherhood to exert influence across the continent, including through charities and mosque associations.
“I would urge the government of Qatar to cease their funding of the Muslim Brotherhood and stop assisting these subversive elements in the spirit of friendship and in acknowledgement of the needs, security and wellbeing of an ally,” he added.
Collins said the British government needed to do more to counteract the Muslim Brotherhood’s influence, pointing to a wide-ranging inquiry into the group conducted by the government in 2014 resulting in an unpublished 2015 report.
The recommendations of the inquiry by former British Ambassador to Saudi Arabia Sir John Jenkins were not taken up by then Prime Minister David Cameron.
“Parts of the Muslim Brotherhood have a highly ambiguous relationship with violent extremism. Both as an ideology and as a network it has been a rite of passage for some individuals and groups who have gone on to engage in violence and terrorism,” Cameron said in December 2015.
“The main findings of the review support the conclusion that membership of, association with or influence by the Muslim Brotherhood should be considered as a possible indicator of extremism.”
However, the Cameron government did not take steps to ban the group, something many Arab countries have been calling for. Collins said it was “regrettable” that “much less has been done” than warranted by the findings of the Jenkins report.
“In this challenging age, where harmful ideology respects no institution or border, the recognition of the extremist nature of the Muslim Brotherhood ideology and activities… should ensure an end to the groups’ influence in British society,” he said.
“The group should not have the opportunity to engage with public representatives and it should be challenged vigorously and opposed where necessary.”
There has been increasing pressure on the UK government to take stronger action against the Muslim Brotherhood and Muslim Brotherhood-tied groups.
In December, Cairo reportedly handed over documents to the UK government implicating Muslim Brotherhood funding in terrorist attacks in the United Kingdom. The same month, the United Kingdom designated two groups — Hasm and Liwaa al-Thawra — with ties to the Muslim Brotherhood to its official list of proscribed terrorist organisations.
“We said we will not leave Egypt alone in the front line in its battle against terrorism and we meant it. Today we use the full force of UK law against two terrorist groups that have murdered many in Egypt and are the enemy of us all,” said UK Ambassador to Egypt John Casson.
A December study by the Tony Blair Institute for Global Change also stated there was significant overlap between the Muslim Brotherhood and terrorist groups such as ISIS.
“The evidence shows that there is considerable ideological overlap in how Islamic scripture is used by Islamists, like the Muslim Brotherhood and violent jihadists such as ISIS and al-Qaeda,” said the head of research at the Tony Blair Institute for Global Change Emman el- Badawy.
Collins could not have been clearer in calling on the UK government to take stronger action against the threat represented by the Muslim Brotherhood.
“Its harmful ideology should be contained, mitigated and its threat to a harmonious society should be opposed,” he said.